I insist on baking a cake for each of the birthdays in our household. I usually make something in the banana bread genre for Zoey, something ridiculously chocolate for myself, and carrot cake for Chris. With Chris’s birthday coming up, I was all set to try out a new carrot cake recipe when I realized we would be spending his special day camping and it would be quite a feat to get his usual multi-tiered, cream cheese frosted birthday confection from our house to the campsite in one piece. I suppose I could have taken the easy way out and served his birthday cake the night before his actual birthday, but that’s just not my style (i.e., I like to make things more difficult than they need to be). Instead, I drew some inspiration from birthdays past (way past) for the most easily portable and shareable birthday cake of all – the cupcake!
For some reason, I can’t seem to just find a recipe and stick with it when it comes to birthday cakes. I always seem to either choose a recipe I’ve never tried before or go completely rogue and just throw something together, ensuring that I spend the entire stretch of time between baking and serving stressing out over whether or not the cake will taste alright. These cupcakes were no exception. In fact, I not only found a brand new recipe but I also decided to tweak it a little bit. Again, I like to make things more difficult than they need to be.
As you may have guessed since I’m posting about them here, the cupcakes turned out quite well. Stored safely in a cake carrier, they survived their ride in the cooler from home to car to campsite (and a few even made it back home after our trip). After what I’m sure was a stellar rendition of happy birthday, we shared our cupcakes with our dear friends and camping buddies, John and Alicia, and with some new friends we made at the campsite next to us. (Just like when we were kids, there’s no faster way to make friends than sharing your cupcakes!) The cupcakes turned out to be just the sustenance we all needed after setting up camp and drinking some beer to get us ready to dance and, well, drink some more beer! Oh yeah. Did I mention we were camping at Brewery Ommegang? And that we were there to see Old Crow Medicine Show? World-class beer, great friends, fun music, and cupcakes? Not a bad way to spend a birthday, I think.
Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
I made some minor adaptations from the original recipe, mainly swapping out the vegetable oil for coconut oil and reducing the yield. I know 18 cupcakes seems like a weird yield, but a dozen didn’t seem like enough and 2 dozen seemed like too many. Plus, I have one full-size muffin tin and one half-size tin so it’s an ideal quantity for my kitchen! These were great straight out of the cooler but they did seem a touch on the dry side when they were cold. I ate one at room temperature the next day and it was just perfect, so I’d definitely recommend letting them warm up a bit before serving if you store them in the fridge (or cooler).
12 oz carrots, peeled and shredded
1 1/3 c sugar
1 c coconut oil
3 1/2 T buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c golden raisins
1/2 c pecans, toasted and chopped
2 c flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
cream cheese frosting, if desired (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line one standard and one half-sized muffin tin with paper liners (or any combination of muffin tins that gives you 18 lined cups).
In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients (from carrots to pecans). In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined.
Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full of the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, rotating the tins halfway through the baking time.
Allow the cupcakes to cool in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Turn the cupcakes out of the tins and finish cooling on the wire rack before frosting with the cream cheese frosting.
Yield: 18 cupcakes
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz butter (room temperature)
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 lb confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium-high for a few minutes, until fluffy.
Reduce speed to low. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth.